Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

5/11/2012

How Much Are You Worth?

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:19 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I mean, on a piece by piece basis.

Have you ever wondered just how much you’re worth?  And, I don’t mean that old thing about how much the various chemicals that make up a human body are worth, but how much are we worth, as assembled?  You know, on the basis of our individual parts.  I’ve often joked about paying off debt by selling a kidney, but, sometimes, I honestly wonder just how much I would get if I could actually do that.
Well, now there’s a handy reference chart to tell you just how much your body parts are worth.  No joke.
The chart is priced in UK Pounds Sterling, so you’ll need to convert it, but, still, it’s pretty fascinating.

Incidentally, this is theory only, since you can’t actually, legally,  sell body parts, as far as I know.  And, I would assume there are variations in price based on the quality of the part.  Also, since I’m a cancer survivor, I actually can’t even give away my parts.  No one would want them any more.  How sad for me!  There goes my “get out of debt” plan!

Anyway, it’s a fun, if somewhat ghoulish, way to spend a little slack time on a Friday, so enjoy!

10/11/2011

Dating Roulette

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:29 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

So, yeah, I signed up for six months of Match.com again.

Wow, this feels like confession.  Or would if I were Catholic.
Anyway, yeah, a week or two ago, I got an e-mail deal on six months of Match.com, including their BS “Six month guarantee!”  I finally got an updated profile and new photos up.  And, took down some shots of me taken shortly after I finished chemo after my hair started to grow back.  Not sure what I was thinking with that, frankly.  Regardless, the new photos are better, partially because of my skill improving, partly because of better equipment, and partly because I’ve been working out a bit.  (No, not because of Photoshop, you bitter cynics!)

But, the reason I’m writing this isn’t to advertise my availability to the three or four readers I have left!  No, rather it’s to share a little story about a kind of Russian Roulette.
One of the things you can do on Match.com is send what they call “winks”.  They’re just little messages that let someone know you’re interested in them.  Like a ping command, in networking terms.  Incidentally, men should never use “winks” on Match.com.  It’s far better for us to write women a short e-mail that makes more personal contact.
In any case, I got a wink from someone who seemed interesting.  Her profile was kind of generic, but, then aren’t they all after a while?  Besides, she was pretty good looking.  At least, from the one, grainy photo that looked like it was taken on a cellphone, she looked pretty.  But, I had to question what a 28-year-old, blonde, blue-eyed teacher would find interesting about a 42-year-old, graying, professional geek.  Yes, alarm bells went off in my head and they all sounded like “Russian Mail-Order Bride Scam”!

See, more than once, I’ve gotten e-mails from someone who is clearly not from the U.S. and, after a bit of probing, usually turns out to be from somewhere overseas, often Russia or one of the former Soviet-block countries, who’s looking for someone to marry here in the States.  Look, to be clear, I don’t have anything against Russians, or any other foreigner who wants to come to marry an American and come to this country.  I don’t even have anything against the whole mail-order bride thing, though, as an industry, it does seem a little sleazy to me.  But, really, if I wanted a mail-order bride from anywhere, I’d be on one of those sites, not Match.com!
Sadly, I was bored enough today that I was willing to roll the dice and see what happened.  Frankly, I figured that at the worst, I’d have a funny story to tell on the blog.  But, when I went back to play my Russian Dating Roulette, the profile had been deactivated.  So, while it is a problem that crops up on these sites, at least Match.com was on top of it and deleted the profile.

So, now, I’ll be sifting through all the profiles and searches and whatever looking for someone who’s easy on the eyes, can possibly put up with me, is willing to take the chance, and not running a scam.  Won’t that be fun?!?
Well, at least it will give me something more to write about!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why this has been filed under the Bavarian Death Cake of Love category, that comes from a few years ago, before cancer, but after divorce, when I was writing more and trying to date.  (You can read that old entry here.)

9/14/2011

Finally, A Cure For This Disease

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:43 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

No, seriously!

It seems that there’s an new, experimental, gene therapy that may cure cancer.  At least, for two of three test subjects, it cured advanced chronic lymphocytic leukemia.  That’s a type of cancer, incidentally, very similar to the diffuse large B-cell lymphoma that I was diagnosed as having back in 2007.  You can read the full story over at the New York Times, but, here’s the rundown in brief.
The researchers took regular, virus-and-tumor-fighting T-cells from the patients and added specially tailored genes to them which let the T-cells target the cancer cells.  Then, they “dripped” the altered T-cells back into the patients, who had already exhausted all other treatment options, including chemotherapy and bone-marrow transplants.  Ten days later, the first patient got the chills.  And his temperature spiked while his blood pressure dropped.  The doctors moved him to an intensive care unit, not quite sure what was happening to him.  A few weeks later, all his symptoms were gone.  And so was the leukemia.  He was normal.

Granted, there have only been three test cases, including the one I just described, with varying results, but two out of the three had an apparently complete cure of their cancer.  For most of us who have had cancer of any kind, those are pretty damn good odds.  They’re odds that I’d take, should I have cancer again, that’s for sure.
And, frankly, it all sounds like a miracle, like science-fiction come true.

When I was getting chemotherapy, I ordered a t-shirt, really without thinking too much about it.  It was a joke, about the future and how we were promised jetpacks and how the futurists lied to us.  But, when it arrived, I read it more closely.  Here’s what it said:
“they lied to us
this was supposed to be the future
where is my jetpack,
where is my robotic companion,
where is my dinner in pill form,
where is my hydrogen fueled automobile,
where is my nuclear-powered levitating home,
where is my cure for this disease
Well, it looks like the future is now.
Thank God.

 

9/7/2011

I Had Cancer

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is mid-afternoon or 4:35 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

And, while that IS true, it’s not what this post is about, exactly.

When you have cancer, or have survived cancer, you feel alone.  You feel like there isn’t anyone in the world who understands you or your life or what you went through or are going through now.  But, at the same time, you know there are others.  You’ve seen them in waiting rooms and lines and shuffling in and out of hospital rooms and doctor’s offices.  They are out there.  And, now, a new social networking site aims to help fellow cancer survivors, and cancer patients, find each other.  It’s called I Had Cancer.

So, yeah, I’ve signed up, and even posted a little bit, but I haven’t gotten too far into the “social” part of the site yet, but it’s still in Beta anyway.  So, if you had cancer, have cancer, or know someone who did, or does, check out I Had Cancer.
And, check back here Monday, September 12th, for the next entry in my personal cancer story.

9/5/2011

In Search of Schrödinger’s Tumor

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:52 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

I may, or may not, have cancer.

Now, before all my regular readers and, due to my automated update configurations, my Twitter and Facebook friends who might read this, get too excited, nothing has changed in my recent medical status.  However, Wednesday, I go in for a scan.  A regular scan, nothing special, nothing new.  My scheduled, nine-month scan, per the standard protocol.  Or so I have been lead to believe.

The scan, however routine it may be, will not decide if I have cancer, however.
That, I’m afraid, already is.  Or is not.  Either my body has betrayed me again and a cancerous growth has lodged itself in my chest or it hasn’t and I’m as healthy as I feel.  Personally, I’m inclined to think that I’m cancer free, still, and this whole exercise will be a test of the quality of my health insurance.  But, also, as it turns out, it’s a test of my patience and courage.

You have to understand, I’m not afraid of cancer.  Or of death, either, really.  It’s chemotherapy that terrifies me.
Cancer, as such, is just a way of describing cells that have gotten a bit carried away with themselves and aren’t too particular about playing by the standard set of rules.  And death…  Well, death is the one thing we all have in common.  None of us make it out of this place alive.  Not a one.  Death, in its way, is the final answer.  The ultimate solution to every problem I’ve ever had or can ever conceive of having.  So, no, though I don’t know what waits on the other side of that particular experience, death doesn’t frighten me so much.
Chemotherapy, on the other hand, I do know.  It is, I think, the embodiment of suffering.  At least, for me.

I know everyone’s experience with chemotherapy is different, so, let me take a moment and tell you why it is that I fear it.  For me, chemo was about losing all my hair, all my color, close to sixty pounds, and virtually all my energy.  And, frankly, in a very, very short amount of time.
My hair went first.  I remember it coming out in clumps in the shower.  Just like in the movies.  I started to cry when it happened.  Great racking sobs, with tears running down my face, mixing with the soapy water.  No one can see you crying in the shower.  I recommend it, if you have any crying to do in the future and you’d rather people not know.  It’s one of the many useful things I’ve learned from one of my ex’s.  I took my beard trimmer and cranked it down to the shortest setting, then sheared the rest away myself.  My own way of taking a bit of control back, I suppose.  But, I remember that day, more than four years ago, as if it were yesterday.  A few days later, I shaved for the last time in what would turn out to be more than six months.
My eyebrows and ear hair and nose hair weren’t far behind.  You have no idea how important nose hair is until you don’t have any.  Trust me.  My nose ran for weeks and weeks and weeks.  Nonstop.  All those annoying, little hairs filter the nasty gunk out of the air and grip it with that snotty mucous up in there and keep it from getting into your lungs, as it turns out.  Without it, well, your nose just runs and runs and runs like a little kid with a cold on a Winter playground.

The weight and the color took longer.  By the time I was an unhealthy, pallid gray, my goatee had become so thin that I shaved it off.  And, I was a larval, grub-like thing, pale and weak, before the weight started to melt off me.
Frankly, I wouldn’t have minded the weight loss, but it took muscle as much as it took the fat.  And, of course, it involved severe nausea and, yes, actual vomiting.  Not to mention all the other symptoms, like how everything smelled different; how all my favorite food smelled, well, wrong somehow.  And the weird bloating I would get in my hands and arms that led the doctors to proscribe diuretics and force the poor nurses to record how much I peed, by volume.  I was measured and weighed regularly.  Multiple times per day, actually.  Oh, and the drugs!  Pills by the score, a fist-full at a time.  Self-administered injections three times a day, at one point.  All while fighting nausea and trying to find a square inch of flesh that I could still pinch up enough to get a needle into without going all the way through.

Death would have been easier.

But, as a wise, Zen-Catholic almost-monk reminded me recently, without fear, there can be no bravery.
He also reminded me that the test will only show what is, or is not, already there.  It will only tell me if I have just another problem to deal with, or another opportunity to exercise my courage, or, simply, a bill to pay and just another doctor’s appointment to go to and questions to ask and answer.
And, either way, all I can do is live in the present moment.  What’s happened is done already.  What happens in the future is yet to be determined and may not have anything to do with what has come before.  And, regardless of the results of this scan on Wednesday, which I’ll get on the following Monday, I can only live as best I can, as best I know how.  There will, ultimately, be other scans, other tests, potentially one every year until the day I do, finally, make the last great leap into the dark.  In between those scans, however many there may be, I slowly, gradually, have chosen to live healthier.  The past couple years, I’ve been juicing.  Fresh, home-made, organic vegetable juice.  And, this year, fruit smoothies.  Both, or either, instead of sandwiches for lunch, along with yogurt, which has lately been organic as well, and, newest of all, Greek for the higher protein.
I exercise more regularly than ever.  I’d like to be less heavy than I am, or at least less fat.  Pound for pound, more muscular would be just fine at my weight.  Less stiff and less creaky in the joints would be okay, too.  Some mornings when I get up, I sound very much like a bowl of Rice Krispies my joints snap, crackle and pop so much.  Several people have suggested that I add yoga to my exercise regimen, that it would help with flexibility and ease my stiff joints.  And, when I hear a thing three times, from three very different people, I have to at least investigate that or risk the Universe taking offense at my willfully ignoring the suggestion.  So, this conservative, meat-and-potatoes, tough-minded, mostly pragmatic Mid-Westerner has found himself a bit adrift in Texas, more liberal and open-minded toward alternative health practices, eating mostly fruits and vegetables and “crunchy granola”, and, yes, finally, investigating yoga, of all things.  At least I hear the classes are mostly women, so, who knows, maybe I’ll meet a nice, healthy girl who won’t laugh too loudly at my foolishness.

So, regardless of how terrified I may be of having to endure chemotherapy again, or how distasteful I find the radioactive enema I will pay an enormous deductible on, I will face the day, the scan, with as much courage and dignity as I can still manage.  I will do my best to be thankful for the friends and family who support me in my weakness and discomfort, and, yes, for the medical staff who will run me through their gauntlet.  I will try to be patient while waiting for the results of what is already there, or not, like Schrödinger’s cat, who’s state cannot be known until it is observed.
And, when all is said and done, I will try not to let the fear cripple me, but, rather, I will do my best to live more fully.  Certainly, more fully than I have been, more courageously, I hope.  I will still know fear, I am sure, but, as I was reminded, there can be no courage without the fear first.

Of course, until that all happens, I will be more than happy to accept your prayers, good thoughts, and any introductions to nice, pretty, healthy ladies who aren’t more than ten years younger than I.
But, let’s start with those prayers, okay?
Thanks.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Live truth instead of professing it."
   --Elbert Hubbard

6/1/2010

What, no superpowers?

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 8:35 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So, I almost didn’t even mention this, but, I got scanned again today.

I’m on a six-month rotation now for my cancer re-staging scans.  For those of you who might be relatively new to this blog, that’s a CT scan to check and see if my diffuse, large “B”-cell lymphoma has become active again.  To see if I’m still in remission or if I’ll need treatment again.  And, I can tell you for certain, as much as I piss and moan about having to go get this very comprehensive, very invasive, very uncomfortable scan, it still beats six months worth of chemotherapy.  Trust me on this.
Now, I won’t say that I’m getting used to doing this, but, well, I sort of am.  If getting a barium enema, however, becomes something that I start to think of as “normal”, then it’ll be time to put the old dog down because something truly terrible will have happened to my life.  I don’t want ingesting radioactive materials, or having them injected, by any method, to ever become something I get real casual about, because it is a pretty serious thing, and being done for a very serious reason.

Of course, that’s not to say that the entire day was torturous.  For one thing, I did get to spend the day with one of my very most favorite people.  In.  The.  Entire.  World!
Seriously!  I adore her and hardly get to see her or talk to her even.  She’s working and in school and, before you ask the question, dating someone who is most certainly not me at all.  And, of course, I tend to be going a zillion miles a minute, so we tend to have some trouble connecting.  I miss her, in short, and today was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with each other a little bit.  Though, I have to admit, I’m afraid I may have been a little distracted by the aforementioned radioactive material and, so, I don’t think I was as fully present with her as I might have liked.
But, outside of that, it was as good a day as it could possibly be.

Though, I am starting to wonder just how truthful all those comic books I read as a kid were.  After all, with all the exposure to radiation that I’ve had, I really feel like I should have developed some kind of super-mutant-power by now.  I mean, I don’t turn green when I get mad or have any early warning of impending peril or anything!  I figured that I’d at least be able to function as my own night-light by now!
*sigh*
Well, maybe in six months when I go back again something will finally happen.
I guess I’ll just have to check with my new oncologist in three weeks when I go see him for the results of this test.  Maybe he can shed some light on just how many more times I have to do this before I can start picking out my costume for my super-identity.
Until then, though, I’ll just try not to set off any metal detectors at the airport….

12/15/2009

More Tests!?

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:14 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

Right, well, I suppose I owe my regular and faithful readers an update.

First off, the doctors tell me that I’m not going to die from cancer before I pay my bill.  No, seriously, the tests all came back clear.  Now, there was some more to this one, if you recall, than just the cancer check.  They noticed some time ago that I have an irregularity of some kind on or around my adrenal gland.  So, there was an extra visit Monday to have a chat with an endocrinologist about what that all meant, if anything.

As far as we can tell, the blood work is all pretty normal and, since the alleged abnormality was pretty well unchanged for the past two years, the verdict is that it’s not a problem at all.  But, since they like be thourough, and I still have pretty good insurance that keeps paying out, I’ve got one more test to go through.  It seems they want to test whether or not my adrenal gland is functioning correctly.  To do that, they want me to take a pill around midnight that will flood my system with artificial cortisone.  That should keep my adrenal gland from making the naturally occurring amount over night.  Then, the next morning, I have to get to a testing center between seven and eight so they can take my blood and test the levels.  Now, the nice doctor told me that this was mainly a double-check and almost a formality, but, when it comes to cancer, and my life, you just can’t be too careful.

In fact, the only really bad news I got this time around is that I was wrong about how often I’m going to be scanned over the next three years or so.  See, I thought I was about to get on the annual scan plan, but apparently that was wishful thinking.  For at least the next three years, I’m going to have to get CT scans every six months.  I have to tell you, that really screws up my plans both financially and personally when it comes to spending my vacation time.  And, frankly, I was hoping to get a few less radioactive enemas!

Of course, all things considered, these are some pretty high-class, champagne problems.  I mean, I’ve got a job, so I can pay for all these tests, or at least the parts that insurance doesn’t cover.  And, frankly, I have mostly everything I need in the way of neccessities, like clothing, shelter and the like.  I even have enough disposable income to run this site, and several others, for the fun of it.  Not to mention the other fun toys I have, like the laptop I’m typing this on and my camera and my iPhone and other totally extraneous things that many people I grew up with think of as a bare minimum standard of living.  But, then, I was always the poor kid in a rich neighborhood who always sort of wondered at the opulence that so many of my peers seemed to enjoy.
Most importantly, of course, I’m alive.

Yeah, let’s stop here for a moment, in the middle of the most commercial season of the year and consider that for a second.  People say that they’re “lucky to be alive” or that they’re thankful “just to be alive and healthy”, but I wonder how many really get what it means to almost not have that?
You see, years before I caught a mild case of near-fatal lymphoma, one of my favorite musicians died from cancer.  As he was slowly being eaten away by that hideous disease, he was frantically trying to record one last CD.  A legacy for his fans and his family.  Along the way, he did an interview with David Letterman who asked him what this process had taught him.  That artist, Warren Zevon, replied, “I know just how much to enjoy every sandwich”.

So, here’s what I hope you take away from my blog and my ranty little bouts with medical testing; enjoy every sandwich, because you never know which one will be your last.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety."
   --Issac Asimov

12/8/2009

Where’s my muse?

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:17 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I think I’ve lost her.

Seriously.  My muse is like a missing person.
Oh, I could blame it all on my impending birthday.  My forty-first, incidentally.  It’s odd to be so old all of a sudden, since I certainly feel no different, physically, than I did ten years ago.  In fact, I’m probably in better shape now than I was ten years ago.  Okay, maybe not better, but probably not any worse and, I hasten to point out, I am getting better, more fit, with virtually every passing day.  And, of course, aside from being a cancer survivor with fucking lung scars and some lingering high blood-pressure issues.

Or, I could blame it on the fact that it’s been three years since I’ve been in a relationship or, hell, even on a date.  You know, the holidays can be depressing all by themselves, but facing the damn things alone are worse.  Worse still is having been with someone through these troubling and troublesome events and then finding ourselves alone again.  People who have never been partnered up during the holidays don’t know what they’re missing.  But, those who have, er, “loved and lost”, so to speak, remember…  We remember all the family that’s not ours anymore.  We remember only the best parts, though.  The happiest part of the holidays.  The laughs, the fun, the happiest memories.  Not, thankfully, the bitter, angry, often drunken, rants and tantrums.  Oh, the tantrums.  How I miss them.  No, it’s not that, though the holidays have been a little strange this year.

I could blame the past several months of non-writing behavior on the scans I have scheduled later this week.  That old favorite scapegoat; cancer-survivor.  The medical bills and the continuing scans seem like a great excuse for the creative well to have run dry.  And this time around, they’ve dealt me a wild card.  A scan I haven’t had yet; an MRI.  See, when I do this workout stuff to slim down and lower my blood-pressure and draw in those hotties like bees to honey, my throat tends to close off a bit.  The muscles in my neck get tight and the veins and arteries choke and throb and I find myself having a hard time swallowing.  Not all the time, but enough to concern my doctors.  And enough to generate concern warranting an MRI to take a closer look at just what the hell is going on there, since we can’t seem to figure it out any other way.  So, top that off with the usual readioactive enema and I suppose that could induce enough anxiety to choke a muse and make her run off with that guy she met on the internet.

But, honestly, it’s not any of those things.
Crap, I don’t know what it is.  It’s a phase, a cycle.  It’s just a bit of writer’s block or cock block or whatever horrible cliched phrase you want to use.  Temporary, I suppose, but I don’t know what I’d write if I were to suddenly be inspired again.  Is the blog writing?  I mean, really?  Does it tell a story?  Or is it just a nut rambling?  I don’t know.  I just sort of run my mouth at the keyboard and on the best days, I just pull out all the stops and safeties and just turn that dragon loose.
But, I have to tell you, good readers, blathering on about the horrid mundanities of my life isn’t the same thing as writing.  Writing is about plot and character and building a storyline from a hook into compelling scenes.  It’s about the reversal of fortune, or at least circumstances.  It’s about change and development displayed through dialog and narrative.  And, all that seems to run away from me like mercury when you slap it.  It skitters away from my grip and shatters into ever smaller droplets that never quite seem to coalesce back into a recognizable shape.

But, my advertising revenue goes up with the quantity of my expressed angst, so, as the story goes, all I have to do is open up a vein and bleed it all out on paper.  Or virtual paper in the case of this blog.  This equally loved and hated blog that provides both release and the agonizing shame of need.  I’ve practically forgotten why I started it more than nine years ago.  I think my relationship with this blog has just about outlasted all my other relationships, actually.  Or, given another year or two, will.
Besides, there was a time that I’d have rather written here, as poor as it was, than done almost anything else with clothes on.  Well, aside from this one fantastic apple pie with stars on it.  So, who knows, maybe it’s not real writing, but it does keep me off the streets at night.  Maybe I should do it some more.

All that aside, though, if anyone sees my muse, could you send her home to me?  For real.  There are a couple of nice women I’d love to woo with a bit of poetry and the like but I can’t seem to write it without her.  So, point her this direction if you stumble across her trampy self, okay?


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The safe way to double your money is to fold it over and put it in your pocket."
   --Frank Hubbard

7/22/2009

On Survival and Change

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is late at night or 11:44 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I’ve always been a survivor.

I usually try to save these soul-searching posts for a weekend, and, as often as not, I’ve been simply deleting them or not even writing them these days.  But, yesterday, I went to see my oncologist to get the results of the CT scan I had last week that I didn’t mention here, either.  I guess it was part of my rationalization and hiding from something that still scares me, to not write about it.  As if somehow not acknowleging it here would make it not matter to me or less frightening.  Of course, that rationalization and avoidance cocktail did nothing to help me sleep for the past week.  Nor, did it make me any less certain that I’ll die alone.

“That moment changes the way you see the world for the rest of your life.”
-Sheryl Crowe, on being diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer changed my life.
Cancer taught me both not to worry quite so much, but, at the same time, to be afraid.  I’m terrified of missing something.  Of not getting to participate in some vital experience that I absolutely need to feel or see or do.  I don’t worry quite so much about my own life and my own needs, but, sadly, that’s often to my detriment.  This entire week while waiting for both the scan and the results I’ve felt as if I’ve been missing something.  As if there were something that I desperately needed to get done, but I was forgetting to do.  I still don’t know what that might be.

One way that things have changed, in part, thanks to my cancer, is how much attention I pay to art and my creative side.  Now, I’ve always loved art, but it always seemed like something that other people did.
When I was in treatment, an acquaintance of mine, Mark Flood, started coming to visit me in the hospital.  We started talking and discovered that we had a lot in common, much to our mutual surprise.  That led to spending more time hanging out, and more time getting to know Mark and his art.  That led to weekly lunches and a rediscovery of my childhood desire to make art.
But, you see, I was told that you couldn’t make a living as an artist.  Or a writer.  I was encouraged to find more lucrative pursuits.  That’s how I ended up with a degree in Marketing and getting into computers professionally.  Both seemed like better career moves at the time.  But, as I spent more and more time becoming a real network geek, I spent less and less time doing anything creative.  And, I made money.  Good money, actually.  But, I wasn’t happy.  Not really, not for long.  These days, I’m mostly happy when I’m chasing one of the photographs I “see” in my head and trying to make it real.  It’s just not enough, anymore, to simply survive.

“[Man] cannot remake himself without suffering.  For he is both the marble and the sculptor.”
– Dr. Alexis Carret

But, thanks to Mark and some other things, I know you can do more than survive as a creative.  I worry that I may be a little late coming to the realization that I’ve been lied to all these years by my family.  For the best of reasons, to be sure, but a lie is still a lie and it tore a small hole in who I was when I didn’t pursue those creative urges back then.  In fact, I can think of several people who we knew when I was growing up who made their living as a creative and did just fine.
But, the process of unmaking who I had become before treatment and creating a life that will let me become the person I want to become is difficult.  Of course, it beats the alternative, which is not changing, staying the same forever, essentially, death.  But it’s not easy unlearning everything your family taught you about life to reinvent yourself and become something new, especially if you want to keep a relationship with that family.  And, all this change, in my perspective, in my priorities, in my very direction and mode of travel, was all brought about by that simple diagnosis of first, an unidentified mass, which later became cancer.

“It isn’t important to come out on top, what matters is to be the one who comes out alive.”
– Bertolt Brecht, Jungle of Cities

After spending almost eight months constantly wreslting with the possiblity of my own death, or, as I like to put it, French-kissing the Grim Reaper, has left me almost entirely unafraid of my own death.  Oh, sure, the pain leading up to it might suck hard, but, when the lights finally go out for me, well, it’s beyond my control.  And, don’t take that to mean that I wouldn’t fight for my life, because I would.  In fact, I think I’d fight harder for it now than I would have ever before, because there are things that I want to do, things I need to acomplish before I finally leave and “shuffle off this mortal coil”.
In fact, you’d think I’d be fearless about everything, but that’s just not been the case.
Mostly, I’m afraid of the things I was afraid of as a kid.  Social situations are especially terrifying.  I get all caught up in appearing right to other people.  Sometimes my ideas are, well, a little different.  Different thinking frightens most folks and, by extension, people who think differently are sometimes frightening.  I sometimes feel the burden of that social pressure to fit in and not make waves.  My working at odd angles to the world makes people occasionally uncomfortable and I don’t like that, so I get hesitant about being open and honest and, sometimes, just being with people.  It’s like regressing back to the Seventh Grade and all the social humiliation that goes along with that.  It’s not a pretty picture in my head.

“Fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself.”
– Daniel Dafoe, Robinson Crusoe

So, with almost entirely good news from my scan results yesterday, I’m trying to overcome my smaller fears that have begun to rule me.  I’m sure it will be a slow, ponderous process, and likely filled with fear and setbacks and imperfection, but that’s okay.  Hell, that’s just life.  But, in the end, I think I have to change.  I don’t plan on dying any time soon, so change will happen eventually, but it’s time to do more than survive.  I think it’s time I started steering my life more and improving and changing and truly living, not just surviving.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Those who dance are considered insane by those who can't hear the music."
   --George Carlin

3/11/2009

Juice

Filed under: By Bread Alone,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:26 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon


JuicemanJunior

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I’ve started juicing.

This is probably not a big deal to anyone else but me, but, well, I’ve gotten a juicer and started juicing. Now, this does not mean that I’m using steroids, which is what I think of when I hear “juicing”. No, this is actual juice, made from fruits and vegetables. Mostly, though, vegetables.

I don’t eat very well. I admit it. I don’t get the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and I eat far, far too much meat. I know this. I know this is why I tend to be so heavy, why my blood pressure is as higher than it should be, why I feel older than I should. I know I should eat better and be healthier to help keep cancer from coming back. So, I’m making a compromise.

When I was near the end of chemo, it seemed like every cancer survivor I ran into asked me if I’d gotten my juicer yet. I’d meant to get one of those years ago, I would tell them. And, I’ll have to get around to that one of these days really soon, I’d add. But, more than a year after finishing chemo, I still hadn’t done it. No, it took my own vanity to push me to go get one, any one, to try. See, I need to keep my nutrition levels as high as possible, while keeping my calorie intake as low as possible and juice seems like the way to do it.
So, I bought a juicer.

It is, in fact, a Juiceman Junior brand juicer, named after the original juice advocate. Though, sadly, he can no longer call himself the “Juiceman” due to contractual obligations. Still, he was the one everyone remembers from the late night ads and the Jim Carrey skit on In Living Color. I thought it would make me all crazy, like everyone who was on those ads seemed to be, to me. But, it hasn’t made me any crazier than I already am. And, you know what? I’ve been enjoying the juice!
Yeah, who would have thought it? I like taking apples and carrots and celery and spinach and parsley and ginger and sweet peppers and juicing them all together. It’s pretty amazing. Oh, sure, at first glance it looks disturbingly green and I was sure it would taste terrible, but, really, it doesn’t. In fact, it tastes sort of good. And, now, I’m getting into a rhythm of making enough juice for two or three days at a time, so it’s actually getting easier to do! It’s sort of a pain to clean the machine, but, so far, I like the results, so it’s worth the work. I don’t think I’ve lost any weight yet, but I do feel better already.

So, yeah, as strange as it seems, I’ve become one of those crazy juice people. And I don’t even mind!

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